Camp Battles: Blount, Martin dueling for first-team RB duties
Bucs coach Greg Schiano has said he wants to have one feature running back
Doug Martin scored at least 12 TDs in each of last three seasons at Boise St.
LeGarrette Blount has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in two NFL seasons
With the arrival of coach Greg Schiano comes a run-first, ball control offense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During Schiano's final five seasons at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights registered at least 400 carries each season, and the running game accounted for 68.9 percent of the offensive snaps over that span.
One of the Buccaneers' first moves in the Schiano era was to use the team's second first round selection on Boise State running back Doug Martin, who had gained 1,200-plus rushing yards in each of his final two seasons with the Broncos. The pick led many to believe LeGarrette Blount's days in a Buccaneers uniform were numbered, but Schiano has kept the competition for the starting job open, and both backs have fought hard this offseason to win it.
Why Martin is the best choice: Because we've all been told so -- over and over and over again. It's as if the Buccaneers have been running a PR campaign to push Martin to the front of the depth chart. His build more closely resembles that of a feature back (5-foot-9, 223 pounds) and he is quicker to the hole than his counterpart. For these reasons Martin has seen the bulk of the first-team reps in camp so far. Schiano has made it no secret that he'd prefer to feature one back in his offense -- an approach most believe favors the No. 31 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. At Boise State, Martin scored no fewer than 12 touchdowns in each of his final three seasons. He was a big factor in Boise State's last two bowl wins, and at times even showed some promise in the passing game (122 receiving yards against Toledo last year).
Why it's Blount: It appears Blount is a changed man seeking a second chance. Last year there were whispers that the 247-pound back couldn't get to the practice field on time, and that he lacked commitment. Not the case this offseason. "He probably had some troubles -- I'm not really familiar with the facts -- but that's all behind us," Schiano told Jim Rome. "LeGarrette has been great. We've had workouts here, we've had OTAs, minicamps, and he's been on time for everything." Blount has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in two NFL seasons, with 385 carries (more than San Diego's Ryan Mathews). He has logged seven 100-yard games in 27 starts, and in 2010 he was one of only eight backs with double-digit carries of 20-plus yards. Blount has the frame to be dangerous near the goal line, and the potential to be an every down back. Plus, this week, Blount was listed atop Tampa Bay's first depth chart.
Don't forget about: Michael Smith
The Buccaneers' seventh-round pick averaged 7.6 yards per carry in his only full season at Utah State. Like Martin, Smith is compact (5-foot-9, 205 pounds), and like Martin he has drawn early praise from the Buccaneers coaching staff. Oh yeah, he was reportedly clocked at a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash during Utah State's Pro Day.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: Martin
Not because he's the odds-on-favorite, or because he looks more like a feature back than Blount ... nope, fantasy owners should pull for Martin because he probably can offer help in more areas. For his size, one would imagine Blount should have scored more than 11 touchdowns the past two seasons. Consider that Martin's touchdown ratio during his final three seasons at Boise State was one to every 13.9 touches.
Blount will find a role in Schiano's offense, but by the end of camp Martin will own Tampa Bay's starting job, and could own the hearts of fantasy owners.